WATERTOWN — When playwright Ronan Noone started “Scenes From an Adultery,” his intention was to write a play with a domino effect. “Every action leads to another,” Noone says before rehearsal at New Repertory Theatre, where his play is having its world premiere.
“I like the notion of the secrets we keep, and what happens when we tell, who we tell, who knows what when,” Noone says. “I was thinking a lot about Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives,’ and I like to think of this as Noel Coward meets Harold Pinter.”
“Scenes From an Adultery,” which begins preview performances Saturday and runs through May 17, takes place in a series of scenes in a couple’s home and at a bar. One friend has seen the wife of another friend in a compromising position with a man who is not her husband. He tells a third friend, and the action is propelled by their decision to share that information and with whom they share it. The comedy revolves around the complications that result from miscommunication, misplaced loyalty, and friendship.
Noone, who originally hails from Ireland and now lives in Weymouth, often explores characters caught between their new home and their roots. He says “Scenes From an Adultery” was originally set in Boston.
“But something happened during the auditions,” says director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary. “We loved actress Leda Uberbacher’s reading because she felt so real, and when we learned she’s originally from Scotland we told her to play it with her accent, and we paired her with Ciaran Crawford.”
Crawford, an old friend of Noone’s who is also originally from Ireland, has performed in several productions of Noone’s plays, including “The Blowin of Baile Gall,” “The Lepers of Baile Baiste,” and “Brendan.”
When Crawford and Uberbacher read the scenes with brogue and burr intact, the dialogue, O’Leary says, suddenly became funnier. When Peter Stray, who is originally from Wales, was added to the mix, the accents added another level to the comedy.
“Now it’s like the setup for a joke,” Crawford says with a laugh: “An Irishman, a Scot, and a Brit walk into a bar. . .”
“I think every genre of theater has written about adultery,” says Noone. “Because this is a comedy, the pace has to be like a train that can’t be stopped, and I’m more confident with the syntax across the Pond.”
The result, says Stray, is a delightful awkwardness between these characters. “The struggle to maintain dinner table manners despite the chaos going on all around is very British,” he says. “That stiff upper lip thing adds to the dark comedy of embarrassment.”
Noone developed “Scenes From an Adultery” during his year with the New Repertory Theatre’s Next Voices fellowship program. O’Leary says the advantage of having Noone in the program is that “Ronan has had the opportunity to deepen the relationships between the characters and work on the rhythm and modulation of the dialogue over the course of the year.”
Noone did take a break when the world premiere of his “The Second Girl” went into rehearsals for a run at the Huntington Theatre Company earlier this year, and he says having two productions gave his writing momentum.
“It’s great to have my plays premiere in Boston,” Noone says. “Whatever success I’ve had has come from Boston audiences seeing my work.”
Jim Petosa, New Rep’s artistic director, says “Scenes From an Adultery” represents exactly the kind of relationships he wants the theater to have with playwrights.
“Any theater company worth its salt has to make a commitment of resources and create a culture that nurtures new work,” Petosa says. “Working with Bridget, we look for writers with specific projects, and commit to producing a world premiere each year as part of our season.”
New Rep is in an unusual position, Petosa says, because it promotes new plays in a variety of ways. “Scenes From an Adultery” is the Next Voices entry, 2016’s “Blackberry Winter” will be presented as part of the National New Play Network, which is producing rolling world premieres at theaters across the country, and with the Boston Center for American Performance (the Boston University company that combines students and professionals), New Rep will produce “Baltimore,” a new play by Kirsten Greenidge, also in 2016.
“Boston is becoming a great incubator for theater,” says Petosa. “Relationships are developing between playwrights, more and more theaters are making a commitment to nurture new work, and we are already starting to see the fruits of that investment.”
Scenes from An Adultery
Play by Ronan Noone
Bridget Kathleen O’Leary
Presented by the
New Repertory Theatre
At: Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, April 25-May 17
Tickets: $35-$65, 617-923-8487, www.newrep.org